Q. In the entire third set you played incredible tennis. I mean, you are very aggressive, very long. I don't recall you playing that incredible game here. You definitely can win the French Open if you play like that, don't you think?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Can you come to every press conference of mine? (laughter.)
God. Yeah, but, you know, not enough on this particular day. You know, I definitely played some good tennis, but it wasn't enough to win the match. At the end of the day, no matter how good or bad you play, you know, she's the one with the W.
Q. How encouraged are you by the way you've played, not only leading up to this event but in this event itself, as well, giving you some encouragement for the next few months?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, there's a lot of work to do. You know, this was a good week. It was a long but a solid week. I certainly had my opportunities in this match. It's definitely frustrating when you feel like you had them and just didn't take them, or was a little bit hesitant.
But just, you know, I know the things that hurt me a little bit today. I just really want to go out on that court and just work on them a little bit more, because I know that they will help me a little bit more in the future.
Q. When you were at Love 40 in the third game today, that was a big moment. What do you remember of that game? Do you think it was her playing better or you missed a chance?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn't really make any easy unforced errors in that game. I thought she did a good job of just being solid. She served her way out of the game really well; but at 2 1, I was a little bit more tentative than I was in the first three games.
She started being a little bit more aggressive, and, you know, she started feeling much better about her game.
From the beginning I felt like I was the one that was more aggressive than the two of us, and that kind of changed a little bit and changed the momentum of the match. I had the opportunity to bring it to 4 All, and you know, I had those I believe it was one or two game points. Then one of the long rallies, you know, I just didn't commit to moving forward.
So, you know, little things here and there, you know, that I could just pinpoint at. But yeah, that's a big game, but that's not the set, you know. I was still up a break at that point.
Q. Coming back last year, the US Open maybe wasn't where you'd be your best. And this year you got the bad luck with Kirilenko, kind of a funny dynamic in the first round in Australia, and then you get Justine here in the third. How do you feel going forward, having that little bit of misfortune just with who you kind of got in the tournaments this year, the Grand Slams?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That's the way sport is. That's the way tennis is.
I mean, you know, the match before us was Dementieva and Scheepers; it was a fourth round to get in the quarterfinal. I'm happy to be going out and playing Justine and a former champion and someone that I know, you know, who we've had great matches against.
I love the challenge of going out there and playing against her. No matter if it's the first round, if it's the final, it doesn't really matter. We have to be ready, you know, from the first match on.
If we're not ready to beat someone in the first match, I mean, I'm not gonna be ready to beat them in the final. You have to be mentally prepared for every match for your opponent to come out and play their best tennis.
Q. In any case, we see that you are serving much better. You are not afraid of pain in your shoulder, and sooner or later the big tourneys and Grand Slams will come. That's what we see outside the court.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you. (Laughing.) Yeah, I mean, I've been serving much better and my arm has been feeling good. I don't think the conditions really favored, you know, that drive through the ball and the serve as much as it would have been on a warmer day where it would have gone through the court a bit more.
Sometimes you have to be ready to hit millions of balls, and it's not just about the serve. You know, the game is becoming better and bigger, and the girls are getting faster. The game itself is getting better.
It's a little bit more about everything else, as well.
Q. How hard is it to finish off a player like Justine? And who do you think can stop her on the way to the title?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know. The tournament is over for me, and, you know, I didn't finish it off. Like I said, I had my opportunities.
But as far as anyone else, you know, everyone has a different game. Everyone's different. I don't really know.
Q. This is sort of tennis' crazy period where it pivots from clay courts to grass coming up. Obviously you just came off court, off a tough match. Based on the big picture, what are your feelings about Wimbledon and your hopes there on a more benign surface for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: My feelings are that in the last few weeks I've been going out on the court and I've been enjoying playing. This part of the season is one of my favorites, going into the grass.
That's what I'll be doing is, you know, preparing myself as best as I can, you know, having a training week leading up to my next tournament and then Wimbledon.
I certainly love this time of year. But as long as I'm healthy on the court and I'm working my way towards what I want to improve, which I feel like I've done maybe in the last three weeks since my elbow is feeling better, then I've got a real good shot.
Q. Can you talk about your comfort level growing on clay, in general? And then specifically to the match, you came out, you were really dictating, you were stepping into returns. After that third game, was it that she was getting more aggressive or did you feel your own level sort of drop a little bit?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I definitely felt at 2 1 I didn't play an as aggressive on my serve as I should have, absolutely. I was up 15 Love, but after that, I, you know whether I stepped back a little bit or didn't have enough on my shots, I mean, I don't know. I can look back at the tape and maybe tell you, but I definitely felt the shift and who was a little bit more aggressive changed.
I mean, you know, I knew that after yesterday that was that was gonna be both of our goals, is to kind of because even from yesterday, you know, the girl that stepped in and had a good look at the first ball really took advantage of the point.
As for my comfort level, I feel good. I feel like I'm moving much better on the surface. I don't know if it's true, but I feel like I'm getting a little bit smarter out there and more consistent. I feel like physically nothing really bothers me. I can stay out there a lot longer than I could have years ago.
Q. We didn't know, how do you change how quickly to your left hand? Because it was amazing that two or three points that we saw.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Because I'm actually naturally a lefty. When I was younger I played left handed for a little bit, and then I played two hands on both sides. Then I switched back to right handed.
Q. Can you describe what it was like playing in those conditions last night?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it got worse. (laughter.)
Yeah, everything is heavy. The ball is heavy. There's tons of clay on the court. It's raining. It's not just drizzling. It's pouring for about 10 minutes. That doesn't really help matters for the rest of the match. Then it gets dark.
You've got all sorts of things, and you add the wind and you add the opponent. That's tennis for you, you know. Then you come out the next day I mean, today could have been bright and sunny and it wasn't.
You know, that's what you get. You've got to be ready for everything. We're in Europe. What can you expect? (laughter.)
Q. You just said we're in Europe. Even if the fans were supporting Justine today, I mean, the French fans, they like people who risk it, like Rezai or Safin in the past. I think you give them exactly what they wanted today.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I gave them a win for Justine? Is that what you're saying? (laughter.)
Q. No. They cheered...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Thank you, Maria. Merry Christmas.
Q. They cheered much more for you than in the past. They really liked the way you attacked. Around me a lot of French fans were shouting your name. I know you're concentrated so you can't hear. I know you said that every player has his own style. I'm not telling you that you will change your style. But do you think that you need their support a bit like today, even if it was a just little, in the future to win here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course I appreciate every support I can get, and I know I have my fair share of support. Whether it's in the stadium or if it's miles away, I know that I have it. You know, it definitely brings out the best in you. If you're down, they certainly can help you out.
But going into a match against Justine who's won the tournament, you know, so many times and, you know, lives so close by, it's very normal and natural. You expect it.
It doesn't bother me at all. I mean, I've played numerous matches in my career where I wasn't the favorite or, you know, someone else wanted the other person to win. It's just part of the sport.
You know, when you're out there, it's not about who's cheering for who, it's about trying to win a tennis match.
Q. I mean, today they liked what you did. I mean, did you realize that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, I certainly I felt their support, and you always do. Even if they're not even if no one is cheering for you in the stadium, they bought a ticket to watch you. I'm sure they have some sort of respect for you, you know.
That's my view on it.
Q. I know you players can't do a great deal about the scheduling, but were you rather surprised that a match between you and Justine, which was the best match of the day on the program, would have been scheduled yesterday behind two men's matches which could have gone five sets, therefore there was a great chance you would probably not start until 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I'm going to be politically correct on this answer.
Q. (Off microphone.)
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I know you wouldn't. Wouldn't you want that little drama for your English papers? (laughter.)
To be honest, it's the way it is. It really is. I mean, would I have liked to play third and try to finish the match? Absolutely. But it's the way it is.
Obviously the men have a Sunday final, so they have a little bit more days. But, you know, I'm not here to complain. It was the same for Justine, and the same thing happened to her matches the day before. We had to reschedule and play the next day.
So, I mean, in a Grand Slam you usually have those days in between, and we really haven't. But, you know, that's this year. Maybe next year will be different.